Tuesday, February 12, 2019
Meet Sue Dauser, First Female U.S. Navy Captain
As a former Human Resource professional I am fascinated by the strides women made outside the home during WWII, in volunteer organizations, in industry, and in uniform. It was a long road to be accepted into the Armed Forces, with most branches waiting until 1942 to create women’s auxiliaries.
The U.S. Navy Nurse Corps was officially established by Congress in 1908, however, by many accounts, the group had worked aboard Navy ships and in Navy hospitals well before that. Prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor there were approximately 800 active duty member, plus over 900 inactive reserves. By war’s end there would be over 12,000 nurses located across six continents.
Guidance for these ladies (it was an all-female corps until 1965, but that’s another whole blog post!), was done by a superintendent. Named to this position, in 1939, Sue Sophia Dauser was highly qualified. Born in 1888, she graduated from the California School of Nursing in 1914, and entered the Navy in 1917, serving as Chief Nurse in Edinburg, Scotland. After the war, she served as Chief Nurse onboard Navy ships and in Navy medical facilities.
During her tenure, she expanded the organization exponentially and secured Navy nurses equitable rank and privileges. In December, 1943, she received the temporary relative rank of Captain and was the first woman to receive this rank in the history of the U.S. Navy. Seventy-five years ago, this month, her relative captaincy was changed to actual commission for the duration of the war plus six months.
In recognition for her work during the war, she received the Distinguished Service Medal, given for “exceptionally meritorious service to the United States government in a duty of great responsibility.” The exceptional performance of duty must be clearly above that normally expected and contributes to the success of a major command or project. Other recipients of the DSM are Mildred McAffee (first director of the WAVES) and Generals Omar Bradley and Dwight Eisenhower. Not bad company!
Captain Dauser retired in November 1945.
Linda Shenton Matchett is an author, speaker, and history geek. A native of Baltimore, Maryland, she was born a stone’s throw from Fort McHenry (of Star Spangled Banner fame) and has lived in historic places all her life. Linda is a member of ACFW, RWA, and Sisters in Crime. She is a volunteer docent and archivist at the Wright Museum of WWII and a trustee for her local public library. To learn more about Linda and her books visit website. Sign up for her monthly newsletter newsletter to receive a free short story, Love’s Bloom.